The Common Good (Our aim is the good of all)
The aim of our participation must be the good of the broader community and not just our own individual needs. Seeking what’s good for the community does not mean just seeking what suits the majority. The Principle of the Common Good reminds us that every person matters. Hence, we need to strive for solutions that address the concerns of every person – for the good of every person and for the good of the whole person (material, spiritual, social, emotional and intellectual needs)
Looking around us
Many issues surround us each day – targets to be met at work or in school; decisions on company policies and ventures; the silent cry of a classmate, a friend, family member or colleague who is experiencing pain, hardships and problems and many others – how often and how much of the good of each person have we considered in the decisions we make. But how well do we understand what is good for each other and for society? Have we worked for the good of all? On another level, can we recall the instances where the larger society has worked for the common good of all? What was the issue? What decision was made? What were the reasons given for that decisions?
Let us reflect
- Leviticus 25:23-43 What you own belongs to the Lord and is given for the good of all
- Romans 12:4-8 We are one body, individually members one of another
- 1 John 3:16-18 We ought to lay down our lives for one another
From our social teachings… (CSDC)
164. The principle of the common good, to which every aspect of social life must be related if it is to attain its fullest meaning, stems from the dignity, unity and equality of all people. According to its primary and broadly accepted sense, the common good indicates “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily”.
The common good does not consist in the simple sum of the particular goods of each subject of a social entity. Belonging to everyone and to each person, it is and remains “common”, because it is indivisible and because only together is it possible to attain it, increase it and safeguard its effectiveness, with regard also to the future. Just as the moral actions of an individual are accomplished in doing what is good, so too the actions of a society attain their full stature when they bring about the common good. The common good, in fact, can be understood as the social and community dimension of the moral good.
167. The common good therefore involves all members of society, no one is exempt from cooperating, according to each one’s possibilities, in attaining it and developing it. The common good must be served in its fullness, not according to reductionist visions that are subordinated by certain people to their advantages; own rather it is to be based on a logic that leads to the assumption of greater responsibility. The common good corresponds to the highest of human instincts, but it is a good that is very difficult to attain because it requires the constant ability and effort to seek the good of others as though it were one’s own good.
Everyone also has the right to enjoy the conditions of social life that are brought about by the quest for the common good. The teaching of Pope Pius XI is still relevant: “the distribution of created goods, which, as every discerning person knows, is labouring today under the gravest evils due to the huge disparity between the few exceedingly rich and the unnumbered propertyless, must be effectively called back to and brought into conformity with the norms of the common good, that is, social justice”.
168. The responsibility for attaining the common good, besides falling to individual persons, belongs also to the State, since the common good is the reason that the political authority exists. The State, in fact, must guarantee the coherency, unity and organization of the civil society of which it is an expression, in order that the common good may be attained with the contribution of every citizen. The individual person, the family or intermediate groups are not able to achieve their full development by themselves for living a truly human life. Hence the necessity of political institutions, the purpose of which is to make available to persons the necessary material, cultural, moral and spiritual goods. The goal of life in society is in fact the historically attainable common good.
Let us take some time to reflect on what our faith is saying in relation to the above-mentioned issue.
Suggestions for action:
How can we understand and apply the above teaching of our faith in our lives – how have we tried to work for the common good of all around us?
For more information, you can read our resources.